Presented on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. As America's first global celebrity, Mark Twain was a much-sought-after-commentator on politics and public policy. He warned against politicians who put loyalty to party above the national interest, the corrupting influence of money in elections and the legislative process, the irrelevance of political campaigns that sidestep issues of voter concern by resorting to platitudes and demonizing the opposition, and the false patriotism that rallies support for unjust wars. Sound familiar? The great-grandson and grandson of Mark Twain's publishers, Don Bliss, has written a book about Twain's commentary on American-style representative democracy, drawing parallels between the Gilded Age and today. Mark Twain's Tale of Today, Halley Comet Returns - The Celebrated Author Critiques American Politics suggests that Twain's observations have continuing relevance in dealing with a dysfunctional Congress, the perpetual campaign, and partisan gridlock and brinkmanship.
Ambassador Donald Tiffany Bliss (Retired) has spent 13 years in the federal government and over thirty years practicing law in Washington D.C. for an international law firm. A former Peace Corps Volunteer lawyer and graduate of Harvard Law School, Bliss was appointed the first Executive Secretary to the Department of health Education and Welfare by the Honorable Elliot R. Richardson. He also served as General Counsel (Acting) of the U.S. Department of Transportation and as a special assistant at the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development. From 2006 to 2009, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal, Canada, the United nations-affiliated organization that regulates international aviation.